Thursday, June 22, 2017

Easiest & Yummiest Summer Dessert: Key Lime Pie!


Key Lime Pie...  so refreshing and sinful.  Everyone is always impressed and it couldn't be easier.

As you can see, I use bottled lime juice.  Be sure to get the good stuff!

Key Lime Pie




Ingredients:

1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup key lime juice
Grated lime zest







I like to mix with my stand mixer.
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the condensed milk, sour cream, and lime juice.  Mix well.  If you like it extra tart you can add some grated lime rind in the mix, too, but it is really not necessary.  Pour into graham cracker crust.  Grate some lime rind on top for decoration and flavor, if desired.

Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until tiny bubbles burst on the surface of the pie.  Do not let the pie brown at all!  Chill thoroughly.  Serve with whipped cream.
 
Here's your pie right out of the oven.  Be sure to chill it for a couple hours before serving!

  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How to felt a hat for Blythe


The steps are the same for felting any project, whether it is a hat for Blythe or a bag for your computer.  What you will need is: your project knitted and ready to felt, a basin to felt in with very hot water and a tea kettle nearby for more hot water, an ice bath, a small amount of laundry soap, and a large pair of housework gloves.

My supplies



Large, heavy weight gloves
The first step is to knit a hat.  There are several free patterns available online.  Here are a few:

It is important that you use a fiber that will felt.  Typically, this means wool but any natural hair based fiber will felt so that means alpaca and angora too.  Please make sure that the wool is not treated to be washable.

“Most animal fibers that are not treated to be machine washable will felt. Although wool, mohair and alpaca will all felt, the end results will be different in each. When wool felts it becomes thick and durable, alpaca retains some of it’s softness and does not get as stiff as wool, and mohair tends to be very fuzzy.
           
The process that the fibers go through to become felted, is the same for all of these fibers. By applying heat and agitation, the scales that make up each tiny strand in the yarn open up and catch upon one another. The more that these fibers rub up against each other, the more tangled they become. Once cooled and dried, the fibers are forever locked together to form a matted form of wool known as felt.”-- from http://www.classiceliteyarns.com/WebLetter/Yarns/Felt.php

A cat ear hat with chin strap, and 2 roll up sun hats
Here are a few examples of projects ready to be felted.  They are hilariously big with a very loose knit, because the felting will tighten it up.  Inspect your project for stray hairs or threads, because they will get felted into the project and you won’t be able to remove them later.

Hats in the basin with a dash of soap and about an inch of very hot water
To start, you need a kettle of boiling water and an ice bath close by.  I start with very little water in the ice bath.  The shocking change in temperature plays a big role in the felting, along with the agitation.  I wear very large housework gloves.  The super large baggy size insulates your hands from the heat.

scrubbing
ice bath

Start with very little hot tap water in your basin and a dash of laundry soap.  You should wash the hats of similar colors only, because the heat and multiple washings may cause the dye to leach off a bit, particularly reds, blues and the dreaded black.


Back to the basin and add more hot water
Put your hats in and get them good and wet.  Pour the hot water from the kettle right on the hats and start scrubbing.  After about five minutes or so you can switch to the cold water.  Give them a good swish and scrub squeeze out the excess and them get them cold again several times.  Then squeeze the excess and back to the hot they go.  Don’t be afraid to pour hot water right on the hats that shocking change of temperature is what we are looking for.  Also, you will probably use all of your first kettle and have to put on a second kettle of boiling water to finish the process.  I let the fibers get a good soak and them squeeze them out in my fist without twisting or wringing to disturb the shaping process.  Then I let them soak up the water again.  I also scrub my two hands together to agitate the fibers.  I repeat this process over and over about 5 to 10 minutes in the hot water and slightly less in the cold.  After a half hour you will begin to see the felting happening.  Now you can start shaping and checking for size, while you keep up all of your previous techniques to keep the felting continuing.  This ability to shape it while felting is the big motivator to hand felting.  Also, you don’t get any creases or fold lines by hand felting.





You can see how much tighter the weave is now.
Another ice bath and almost done!
When you have reached your desired size, rinse your project well in cool water.  Now shape carefully before allowing it to dry thoroughly.  This is your chance to really tweak the piece into your desired shape.  Hint: notice that the hat fits the top of a pint glass almost perfectly for the size of Blythe’s head.  It’s great to use as a drying rack.

Adjusting the curve of the brim
Well, obviously, hand felting is a labor of love and uses a lot of elbow grease.  If you don’t want to work so hard, you can do it in a machine.  You can set your machine to a small load and add just a dash of laundry soap.  Put your hat in a zipper pillow case-- this protects the hat from being too twisted out of shape and, importantly, protects your washer from all the fuzz that will leach off the hat and then gumming up the mechanism in the washer.  I’ve heard horror stories of washers destroyed by felting.  Also, add an old pair of stiff jeans to the load to help the agitation.  You will have to check it frequently.  It will take a similar amount of time but with less scrubbing on your part.  Once your hat is the right size, rinse it out gently in the sink and shape it carefully by hand.  You can often work out any folds by pulling and pushing into shape.


Classic roll up drying
Cat ear hat drying



Now your hat is ready to embellish!  Have fun felting!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Coconut Rum Cake Recipe

As summer fades to fall, here is a favorite recipe to take to all your seasonal gatherings, recalling warm, tropical summer nights.  This is an all time favorite!  I get so many requests for this cake.  And it is my husband's favorite, too!  This recipe is so simple.  It's easy to make in the morning in time for a luncheon potluck.  It's based on a boxed cake mix with a candied rum syrup poured over the cake after baking to add that delectable moist flavor. 

Here's a copy of the recipe to download and print.

Coconut Rum Cake


Ingredients:
(1) 18 ½ oz package yellow cake mix
(1) 3 ½ oz package instant vanilla
pudding mix
½ cup rum, dark
½ cup coconut oil
4 large eggs
½ cup shredded unsweetened
coconut
½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup shredded unsweetened
coconut

Rum Syrup:
1 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter
⅓ cup rum, dark

Directions:
1. Preheat oven: 325ºF. Liberally grease a non-stick 2-quart Bundt pan with butter.
2. Using an electric mixer at low speed, blend the cake mix, pudding, rum, oil, and
½ cup water. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. After
last egg, beat on high for 2 minutes. Stir in ½ cup of the coconut.
3. Evenly distribute the pecans in the bottom of the prepared pan. Evenly distribute
the other ½ cup coconut over the pecans. Pour the batter over the top of pecans
and coconut. Drop pan several times to even out batter and surround nuts.
Bake for 50 minutes, until a knife inserted an inch from the center comes out
clean. Do not remove the cake from the pan.
4. Make the rum syrup: in a small sauce pan bring the sugar, butter, rum and ¼ cup
water to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. With a fork, evenly poke holes in the top
of the cake. Pour the syrup over the cake. Let stand for 30 minutes.
5. Invert cake onto serving platter and wait for it to loosen and drop out of pan.

Enjoy!!!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cardigan Knitting pattern for Middie Blythe


Labor Day is around the corner, and fall is almost here.  As the days get longer and the nights get cooler, I think about spending cozy evenings by the fire with a new knitting project underway.  Doll knitting projects are so much fun because you can complete them in almost an evening, and they don't require much yarn.  Here's a pattern for a little sweater for Middie Blythe.  It is a swing style sweater with pockets to keep your girl's hands warm.  It can be embellished with lace, embroidery or beading, or it is sweet in its simple form, too.  The pattern is adapted from a popular Neo Blythe pattern by Jane Pierrepont that is available on etsy here.

Doll model in this post is customized by Sarah Glahe of Kaleidoscope Kustoms.  

Pocket Cardigan for Middie Blythe

Finished Size
Fits Middie Blythe

Materials
Fine yarn
3mm needles
Tension: 10 rows and 7 sts for 1” square

Notes
Increases: pick up the horizontal strand between the stitches on the right and left needles and knit into the back of the loop.
Moss Stitch: an elongated version of seed stitch. Instead of alternating the pattern every row (as you do for seed stitch), for moss stitch, you work 2 rows of the same sequence of knits and purls before you alternate them. (definition from dummies.com)

Directions
Cast on 26 sts and work 4 rows moss stitch
Row 5: K4, inc, K1, inc, K3, inc, K1, inc, K8, inc, K1, inc, K3, inc, K1, inc, K4.
Row 6: Purl
Row 7: K5, inc, K1, inc, K5, inc, K1, inc, K10, inc, K1, inc, K5, inc, K1, inc, K5.
Row 8: Purl
Row 9: K6, inc, K1, inc, K7, inc, K1, inc, K12, inc, K1, inc, K7, inc, K1, inc, K6.
Row 10: Purl

Knit across 7 sts for right front and 11 sts for sleeve (18 total) turn and work on the 11 sts for sleeve as follows: (you can put the stitches not being worked on a spare needle if you like at this stage)
Sleeve
Starting with a purl row SS 8 rows
Moss stitch 4 rows
Cast off in moss stitch

Rejoin yarn to 31 sts on needle and knit across 25 sts.  
Turn and work on the next 11 sts for the other sleeve as before.  
Rejoin yarn to the last 7 sts and knit to end.

Body
Purl 1 row
Next row: *K2, Kfb next stitch.  Repeat from * to last 3 stitches, K3
Starting with a purl row SS 5 rows
Moss stitch for 6 rows and cast off in moss stitch

Pocket
Cast on 8 sts and work 6 rows in moss stitch.  Cast off.

Finishing
Stitch sleeve/side seams together.
Make a button loop: I did this by fastening a few simple crochet chain stitches in a loop on one side of neck edge.  Attach button or pearl on other side, you can position the placement to adjust the neckline.
Stitch pockets on the hem so they sit where your doll can put her hands in.

You can download and print the pattern here.

IMG_2949.jpg

 Happy knitting!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The BlytheCon Debacle

Art by Cat Maske

BCSF: My Story, Part 1


I think that I owe the Blythe Community an explanation, so this is my statement.  This is my perspective of my experience.  I’m sure other team members have their own.

About me:  I have never considered myself a major player on the Blythe scene.  I collect with my daughter, and we attend the BlytheCons together.  We have attended 6 US BlytheCons: Portland, Dallas, NYC, Seattle, Chicago, and SF.  I have made large donations to the goodie bags for most events: a sailor dress and accessories for the raffle in Portland, 150 headbands for Dallas, 150 crochet flower hair clips for NYC, 150 tulle underskirts for Seattle, and the Keane cards for SF.  My daughter has buttons and candy to pass out randomly.  And she has a wubba chicken shooter that she fires off, so if you find a wubba chicken on the ground at a BC?  Yeah, that’s an Easter egg gift.  I usually bring swaps to exchange, too. This is something the Girl Scouts do.  We make little things to exchange in friendship.  Some may remember me, because I won the costume contest in Seattle with the zombie Dorothy.  And I was on the BlytheCon San Francisco planning team.  Or at least, I thought I was.

Team Roles:
  • Carrie: Lead
  • Jonathan: Vice Lead & Financial
  • Blanca: Donations
  • Cat: Art and Digital
  • Ion: 3D Art
  • Patty: Photos
  • Lizzie
  • Cara: Workshop & Demos

    I was at odds with my team.  We started as a group of friends.  Now I am not even their friend on FaceBook.  I fought for and was continuously voted unanimously against on:
    • Mugs
    • Canvas bags
    • A gift for each attendee as opposed to raffle, like BlytheCon Chicago
    • Make & Takes or craft tables/areas
    • Shirts (for dolls and humans)
    • Eliza Rickman

    If you want to see the details about all of this, see my next post.  I wanted to post a shorter version first.

    Because so many people have asked for a financial statement, I have pieced one together.  As an outsider on the team, I was never privy to the financials.  But I have pieced this together to the best of my knowledge.  This is done from estimates that I pulled up online and a few posts to the planning group.  I will not be getting a cut of the profits.

    BCSF Financial Estimation
    Income
    Tickets Sales:
    250 x $80 = $20,000 Regular/Adult
    31 x $25 = $775 Helper/Child
    31 x $40 =  $1240 Vendors
    ($300 est.) Video Crew from Hasbro
    $22,315 Total

    Expenses
    $2,500 Venue
    $150 Additional Audio Fee
    $4,000 Lunch
    280 x $0.55 = $154 Lanyards
    $134 Bags
    $176 Stickers
    $67 Postcards
    $68 Buttons
    $100 Posters
    $76.50 Raffle tickets
    $66 Premeet venue
    $100 Premeet umbrella
    $50 Clubhouse for Goodie Bag meeting
    $647.14 + 93.6 = $740.74 Paypal fees (2.9% + $0.30 per transaction)
    (Ticket Buyer pays Brown paper bag fees)
    $275 Demo Room
    $78.30 Demo Fees ($32.42 Hair Raffle Basket & $45.88 Juki shipping to SF)
    (Printed Pattern Handouts provided by Momoko)
    (Hair clips and brochure provided by Christine)
    Dolls:
    $163 Donation Raffle (Ashley’s Secret)
    $206 Costume Prize (Sally Salmagundi)
    $178 VIP #1 (Check It Out)
    $178 ChinaLilly (Check It Out to customize for raffle)
    $900 Kenner
    $1,705 Monkeys
    ($?) Photo Ops
    $12,065.54 Total

    So there it is, but really anyone could have done this.  So why now?  My reason is not to stir up trouble.  I want to start a real conversation about where we are going with BlytheCon.  Technically, Mara did not steal from the hobby, at an inopportune moment her funds were seized by the IRS (and not even for her back taxes but for taxes owed by a husband that she was divorcing).  It was really bad timing for the community.  She was planning on building BlytheCon.  Maybe we could have had a steering committee, like BCEU.  But she was excommunicated, drummed out of the hobby.  And we are left with this rather disconnected form of BlytheCon, where we are forced to rely on individual ethics, and the convention itself does not seem to grow creatively with additional fun events and activities.

    Two BlytheCons since BCNYC have been planned for profit, profit for vendors and profit for planners.  And that seems to be great for the people making the profit.  But what does that mean to us as a community?  And is this the direction we want BlytheCon to go?  Because, let’s face it, when events are planned for profit, corners are cut.  

    Options have been discussed, like the bigger Blythe Meet in Vegas suggested By Lisa Marie Pinto of BlytheWorld.  No selling, or just room sales but no “convention floor.”  Though, I myself would obviously prefer a more child friendly location than Las Vegas.  But this idea could be expanded to include all-inclusive resorts, cabins in national parks or cruises.  We could DO things together: photograph, knit, craft, enjoy friendship.

    I think it is time to have an open discussion about what direction we want our hobby to take, rather than just blindly trudging onward with no map nor guide.


    Tuesday, August 9, 2016

    BCSF Workshop with Momoko Komori


    The jacket is reversible.
    This is the jacket taught in the class.
    Jacket back. (Photo Credit: Momoko Komori)

    or what I learned from Momoko -san on one magical day...


    It was my honor to host a workshop with Sensei Momoko Komori, as a breakout event of BlytheCon San Francisco.  I want to give a big shout out to Quilt Works in South San Francisco, a non-profit who so generously let us use their facility at a very reasonable rate.  They played a big part in making this event possible.

    It has long been a dream of mine to attend a sewing class with Momoko.  I watch all of her posts wistfully, dreaming of a day.  I don’t keep a Bucket List, but if I did, this would be at the top.  

    For those who may not know her, Momoko is very kind and quiet, patient and focused.  She openly shares her secrets.  And it is clear here and in demos as well, which I have been lucky enough to attend several, that she is very methodical, nothing is random.  Each little clip in the collar is placed just so, the exact length, in the exactly perfect spot, every time. When sewing, the length of the seam is exact, not ever one stitch too many.  She said, “Once stitch is 1.8mm too much!”  

    All of this is clear when you look at her miniature garments, in their perfection.  It is why they are so highly prized and sought after, never coming back up on the resale market.  And, wow! What a change for me, coming from a background in theatrical costume design, where details are important but no one is looking up close.

    I want to thank Kathleen Stevens for letting me use her photos for this post. I was so focused on the lessons that I took almost no photos.  All of the photos in this post are hers unless otherwise credited.  Frankly, I felt a bit torn between wanting to take the class and needing to host the event.  And on top of it all, I was operating on a level of extreme exhaustion.
    Kathleen's doll with the jacket in progress during the class.
    Kathleen's doll in the completed jacket.


     We made these lovely miniature letterman jackets, fully lined and reversible.  Momoko provided kits, with the fabric already cut and fray checked in the tiny pieces.  And she had pre-sewn all of the lining pieces together to help speed the process!  Nonetheless the class ran over by about an hour.  Momoko was kind enough to stay longer to help everyone get to a finishing point.  This class was a much larger class than her other classes.  She usually teaches 8 students.  And we were a group of 14!  And we were English speakers on top of the class size, too!

     

     

     

    Here are some things I learned (or was reminded of their importance):

    • I LOVE that Juki TL-2010Q sewing machine. I can’t stress this enough. What an awesome machine!  Juki USA was kind enough to lend a machine for the BCSF demo and workshop.  Thank you Juki!
    • No matter what machine (and tools) you have, familiarity really helps.  We develop a relationship with our equipment that makes the work easier to be exact.
    • Be exact.  One stitch is one stitch too many in seaming, even with tiny stitch length.  This is so important when working in miniature. Put the snip exactly where the ease is needed, don’t just put a random line of snips around the collar edge.
    • Fray Check the edges of pieces.  I think that she does this before cutting.  The pattern pieces were made of cardboard.  She traced the pieces (in something that does not run with fray check like pencil) then fray checked the line.  Then cut.  At BCNYC, she said to open the Fray Check and put a piece of hose (like stockings) between the bottle top and cap to help it come out more smoothly and precisely.
    • 5mm seams
    • Leave 3mm open and the beginning of the neck/shoulder seams for ease then less clipping at the neckline is required.
    • Leave 5mm open at the armpit seam for ease, then no clip is required in that area.
    • The pocket area is reinforced with fusible interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric, as a first step.
    • Mark spots and important seams.  Get some good marking tools and mark, mark, mark.  The cardboard pieces had pin holes in them to stick a pen in and place the dot on the pattern piece just so.
    • Use tracing paper as a stabilizer for delicate seams and top-stitching.
    • For the Chiffon Dress pattern: do not put the darts in the back pieces.  It can make the waistline too tight.
    • To make a perfect knot at the end of your thread: grasp end of thread in same hand as needle and wrap around needle then slide down to end.  Voila!  Perfect tiny knot every time.  No more sloppy wet finger knots for me.  Thank you to John Baens for pointing it out during the demo.
    • Help others and share your secret tips and techniques.  That way our knowledge as a community can continue to grow.
    • Have patience and don’t give up.  Momoko could fix just about any mistake we made with just a few little perfectly placed stitches or snips.
    • Be more calm and quiet.  This might be a more personal thing for me.  I tend to be louder and chatty when I get nervous or have social anxiety.
    • Japanese notions and sewing tools rock! But I have to say, check out the awls at beading stores.  They are used for pearl knotting and are very sharp and have curved points.  It helps to grab and position the fabric while sewing, especially helpful with gathers.


      Christine Kennison's jacket and my jacket from the workshop. (My photo)

      If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from Sensei Momoko, I highly recommend it.  And I hope that I may have the opportunity to take another class some day.  Until then, we can all study at home with her patterns.  Shop for her patterns here!  They are instant downloads.  The little jacket featured in this workshop is available there, as well as the Chiffon Dress pattern from the BCSF demo.  I am excited to try all of her patterns!  I have fabric for a couple more jackets and the Cotton Lawn Dress pattern, too.  They make such cute perfect little miniature outfits! 

      Sensei Momoko Komori and I (Photo credit: Momoko)






      This is my second jacket, completed the day after the workshop.  Doll customized by Greta Wade of Shepuppy dolls. (My photo)

       

        I want to thank everyone who attended this event.  

      Your support made this event possible!